Can the American people still take the Republican Party seriously? What exactly does the party stand for and who represents it? Is “support the troops” only a slogan to be used for rallying the electorate around a war plan that had a dubious beginning and no end in sight? Does that support waver when those troops return home with grievous injuries and financial needs un-anticipated in the original war planning? Are the sneaky little ways the president’s budget adds to the expense side of veterans’ benefits an acceptable measure of true support?
And who in Congress, the administration and associated punditry represents the basic beliefs and philosophy of Conservatives specifically and Republicans in general? Is it the vituperative Ann Coulter who is consistently invited to speak at forums that host major Republican candidates, elected officials and various supporters? Is hers the face of the party? Coulter isn’t just an inflammatory proponent of right-wing issues; she seems strangely obsessed with the words “fag” and “faggot” which she applies to everyone from Al Gore to, most recently, John Edwards. Apparently she finds this approach enormously amusing as did some of the attendees at the Conservative Convention last week. Give conservative columnist George Will credit on Sunday’s “This Week” for saying “the less said about her the better.”
Probably Ms. Coulter would benefit by getting herself into some form of therapy to help dispel the demons that must writhe in her subconscious and perhaps find relief as well for what appears to be an anorexic condition. But whatever drives her there is no excuse for the kind of vitriol she dispenses. Her comments about the 911 widows who had become active in seeking answers for the attacks were tasteless and cruel, conjured up in some dark place in her mind. To say that the women were enjoying their widowhood because they had gone public was an indication perhaps that a narcissistic Coulter was actually jealous of their celebrity as well as defensive about their criticism of officials in New York and Washington for failing to analyze and react to warnings of an impending terrorist attack.
But quite beyond Coulter as a Republican standard bearer there are others in the public eye who make comments and promote ideas far afield from the compassionate conservatism many of their leaders continue to claim as an ideal. Newt Ginrich at this same conference ranted about the failures at all levels of government to react effectively to the onslaught of Katrina. He also observed that many inhabitants of New Orleans were guilty of poor citizenship – – too uneducated and uninformed to get out of the way of a hurricane. This is the same man who said in the past that it might be a good idea if a system of orphanages were instituted in the United States. And Republicans refer to him as someone with ideas and the ability to find solutions to the country’s problems. This is the Grand Old Party?
Equally puzzling in his observations, Trent Lott seemed dismissive of the concerns expressed about veterans’ issues in recent days saying that Walter Reed was set to close anyway – – in three or four years time that is. And despite the fact there are serious concerns about funding and personnel, Representative Virginia Fox, R. of North Carolina played down claims from others that more money was needed to adequately serve veterans’ needs. She maintained on “Washington Journal” that there was “plenty of money” – – the problem was one of accountability not funding. She also charged that Democrats were just playing up problems for political reasons. Either she was unaware of or preferred not to mention, among other things, “the claims backlog that is quickly approaching one million.” (Veterans of Foreign Wars press release, 2/5/07).
The 2008 presidential race is on and it has already produced some peculiar incantations from candidates on both sides of the political spectrum. Basically, too many Americans in the recent past trusted the word of dissemblers driven by ideological agendas having nothing to do with the words they uttered. We should never again be seduced by leaders who claim to answer to ‘a higher power’ or be distracted by the fog of wars conducted to protect our interests in oil-rich lands. We have seen what dogmatism and sectarian doctrines have wrought in other parts of the world. We should never allow them to drive our politics.
One thing is certain; whoever emerges as each party’s candidate had better be a real person the public can take seriously, not some fabricated creation beholden to religious fanatics or self-fulfilling dreams of power. If Republicans continue to invite people like Ann Coulter to speak for them at political gatherings and allow their party to be hi-jacked by extremists they may find a disenchanted electorate in 2008. That’s good news for Democrats if they can keep a sense of who they are in tact and avoid coming off as some have described them – – “Republican light.”

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